Alabama Shakespeare Festival at sunset.

Alabama Shakes Returns to Repertory for 2018-19 Season

The first programmed by ASF’s new artistic director, Rick Dildine, it features world premieres and musicals alongside classics.

MONTGOMERY, ALA.: Artistic director Rick Dildine and executive director Todd Schmidt have announced their inaugural festival season at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, which will feature 14 productions over a full six weeks of spring repertory, along with unexpected theatrical experiences in found spaces.

“We are moving into a new stage of ASF’s history,” said artistic director Dildine in statement. “Our 47th season represents a return to the festival repertory format with more than one show running at a time, along with a renewed commitment to this community with plays that reflect who we are today. This slate of shows includes more Shakespeare, two plays by Christina Ham in repertory together, a residency from NYC’s Bedlam Theatre Company, and a world premiere of a new play by Susan Ferrara, directed by ASF acting alum and Emmy Award winner Carrie Preston.”

With the recent opening of the Equal Justice Initiative National Memorial for Peace and Justice and Montgomery’s primary position on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, the community of Montgomery has been nationally recognized as a top tourist destination in 2018. “There is tremendous opportunity in this moment for ASF to return to its festival roots,” said newly appointed executive director Schmidt. “ASF will enhance the already robust opportunities for visitors to Montgomery with multiple concurrent productions in three different venues.”

The season kicks off with Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe (Sept. 29-Oct. 20), directed by Rick Dildine. This intimate and collaborative performance is about the lengths we’ll go for those we love.

Next is the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic The Sound of Music (Nov. 15-Dec. 30), also directed by Dildine. The show follows Maria, a young and spirited nun-turned-governess, and the Von Trapp family.

Following that is The Gospel of Luke (Dec. 6-30), realized by Bruce Kuhn. The book of the apostle is told with the passion and surprise of an eyewitness account.

The next begins with Christina Ham’s Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963 (Jan. 25-Feb. 13, 2019), directed by Tangela Large. This show tells the story of Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Addie Mae Collins, the talented and promising victims of a notorious and tragic anti-Civil Rights bombing.

The cast of Christina Ham’s “Four Little Girls” at SteppingStone Theatre in St. Paul, Minn., in 2015.

Running in repertory with that is another play by Ham, Nina Simone: Four Women (Jan. 30-Feb. 17, 2019), with music by Simone and direction by Lydia Fort. Through storytelling and song, this show celebrates the way Simone helped define the sound of the Civil Rights Movement.

Thornton Wilder’s classic Our Town follows (Feb. 21-Apr. 27, 2019), directed by Bruce Longworth. This iconic play follows young lovers Emily and George and their neighbors through a life journey that delivers universal truths about what it means to be human.

Romeo and Juliet is next (Feb. 28-Apr. 29, 2019), to be directed by Dildine, in a new staging about the “star-crossed lovers” whose families’ long-standing feud has pitted neighbor against neighbor.

Following is Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat (Mar. 3-May 5, 2019), directed by Neil David Seibel. The classic children’s book comes to life.

Next is Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias (Mar. 21-May 5, 2019). This heartwarming story of six Southern women who gather and gossip at the local beauty parlor will be directed by Dildine.

Into the Breeches by George Brant is next (Apr. 4 -May 4, 2019), directed by Shana Gozansky. Set in Montgomery in 1942, the play follows what happens when the men are away at war and the wife of the local playhouse’s director produces an all-female version of Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Henry V.

Next is As You Like It (Apr. 11-25, 2019) by William Shakespeare. One of the Bard’s most popular romantic comedies, this tale of love, desire, and mistaken identity will be directed by Greta Lambert.

Carrie Preston will direct the world premiere of Susan Ferrara’s Buzz (Sept. 4-15, 2019), based on the true story of charismatic director Mary Ann “Buzz” Goodbody, one of only five women directing in the U.K. in the 1970s. In 1975, she famously directed Ben Kingsley in the title role of Hamlet. Four days later, she was gone.

Appropriately enough, Hamlet will run in rep with Buzz (Sept. 5-Oct. 6, 2019), in a production by NYC’s Bedlam Theatre, in residence at ASF, under director Eric Tucker.

The season closer is Shaw’s Saint Joan (Sept. 12-Oct. 5, 2019), in Bedlam’s acclaimed four-actor staging.

Alabama Shakespeare Festival is the largest professional theatre in Alabama and one of the largest Shakespeare festivals in the world. Designated as the State Theatre of Alabama, ASF has been located in Montgomery since 1985, when it moved from Anniston because of Mr. and Mrs. Wynton M. Blount’s gift of a performing arts complex set in the 250-acre Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park.